The Road Back Home

Part 12

by Lynne Norris

May 2001




Regina stepped down out of Alex's Jeep and shut the door. “Whose brilliant idea was this again?” she muttered, testily as she walked around the vehicle and joined Alex by the street corner.

“Yours, my dear,” Alex draped an arm over her shoulder and squeezed her affectionately while she watched as several cars sped through the busy intersection. After having no luck at two jewelry stores, Regina's spirits tumbled, as did the chances of finding the kind of locket that the younger woman was looking for.

A brisk, damp wind whipped down the street and ruffled the tails of Alex's long, leather coat as she stood beside her companion. After the traffic light changed, they jogged across the street and ducked underneath the awning of the corner jewelry store.

“I'm sorry I dragged you all over the place tonight,” Regina sighed as she pulled the door open. Bell chimes announced their arrival inside the store. She knew shopping was not one of her partner's favorite past times and Alex had been patiently trying to help her find just the right locket.

“Don't apologize,” Alex replied as she followed Regina through the door. An older, white-haired man with a hawkish profile was standing behind the glass display helping a young woman pick out a pair of earrings.

The thick, pile carpet muffled their footsteps as they walked over to the glass counters. Alex studied Regina as the younger woman peered down at the array of shiny gold chains and bracelets. One particular necklace caught Alex's eye. Hmm, I'd bet that necklace would look really nice on you.

Alex wrinkled her brow and tossed the idea out after considering it for a moment. Neither of them wore any jewelry to speak of except for an occasional pair of earrings. Between constantly washing their hands during the day, and changing protective garb in between patients it was more of a hassle to bother wearing anything of value at work.

“I'll be right there ladies,” the man spoke to them from across the store.

Regina sighed and looked up at Alex. “I don't see anything.”

“Wait, maybe he has something in the back that's not on display,” the dark-haired woman replied softly, hearing the discouragement in Regina's voice.

“What can I help you with?” The white-haired gentleman with startling gray eyes asked as he walked over and stood behind the glass counter.

“I'm looking for a locket that opens up and holds pictures inside,” Regina described.

“Hmm, I know what you're talking about. I don't think I have anything here but let me check the items that we offer as part of our silent auction. We get some pieces like you described every now and then, that people want to sell.” He glanced at the door and gnawed at his lip for a moment. “Let me just lock the front door. I'm the only one here and it's almost closing time anyway.”

Regina glanced up at Alex doubtfully.

“What have you got to lose? Maybe he'll have something.”

They followed the man around the corner and down the carpeted stairs to another room that was occupied with small, circular display cases. He made a sweeping motion with his arm as he stepped back away from them. “Take your time and look around. I'll check in the back to see if there's anything that came in today that you might be interested in.”

Alex's eyes followed the jeweler as he disappeared behind a dark green velour curtain. She shook her head and returned her attention to Regina. “Why is it all jewelry stores are decorated alike?”

The blonde shrugged as she peered into the different cases, looking for that elusive locket. “I don't know. Hey, look at this.” She pointed at a gold band engraved with a Celtic design.

Alex arched her eyebrow as she peered over the blonde's shoulder. “I thought you were looking for a locket.”

“Tch,” Regina looked up at Alex and rolled her eyes. “I am. I just like the design.” She moved away and looked down at another display case.

Alex glanced after her and then peered down at the ring curiously, recognizing the rope design, like vines weaving together forming an intricate never-ending circle. She tucked Regina's comment away in her memory and turned around when heard the curtain rustle behind her as the older man walked back into the room.

He stopped for a moment at the case she was standing by and inspected the rings briefly. “Those are some beautiful wedding bands in there.”

Alex gave a non-committal grunt and stepped back away from the display case.

“What do you think of these?” He walked over to where Regina was standing and set two rectangular black boxes on the counter in front of her.

Alex joined her, waiting as Regina picked up the first locket and held the delicate chain in her hand, examining the clasp that held the locket closed. “Let me see the other one.”

“Ooh, Alex, look at this one,” Regina exclaimed, as she took the other necklace from his hands.

Alex glanced down at him briefly, aware of his keen eyes studying the two of them with interest. What's going on behind those eyes of yours, she wondered, then, dismissed the thought, and turned her attention back to Regina.

The oval, gold piece had a delicately etched design on its cover. Regina's fingers easily opened the clasp and two circular frames unfolded from within. “Ooh, Alex, look at this. It's perfect.”

The taller woman leaned closer, inspecting the gold locket. “You like that one?”

Regina nodded her head eagerly and then looked over at the elderly man with a hopeful look in her eyes. “Is this piece part of the auction?”

“It is but I think I can make an exception. I know the person who is selling this piece,” he explained. “If you can wait a few minutes I'll make a phone call and we'll see what we can work out.”

Regina touched the sleeve of Alex's leather coat. “Do you mind? I feel badly, dragging you all over the place like this.”

“It's fine,” Alex re-assured the younger woman and then turned watching the older man walk back up the stairs. “I'll be right back.” She trotted up the stairs after him. She was curious about who he was calling and the more cynical side of her wanted to make sure he wasn't going to try and take advantage of Regina's eagerness.

The man smiled at her when she entered the main part of the shop upstairs. “That piece is my sister-in-laws.” He shook his head, looking suddenly distracted and lost. “It's my brother's really, since his wife died last year. I am helping him sell the things he does not want anymore. They bring too many memories he can not bear anymore.”

Alex hung her head, feeling rather foolish for her misgivings about the man. “Sometimes the most cherished memories become the most painful when we lose someone we love.”

“It sounds like you speak from experience,” he replied, watching the azure eyes darken with the changing emotions on the woman's face.

She wasn't quite sure where the swell of emotion was coming from but it caught her completely off guard. “I do. It's been almost two years. I still miss her, but the pain is not so unbearable now.” The words escaped unbidden from her lips and Alex squared her shoulders and prepared herself for the worst. Instead, it was an odd sense of comfort she felt as she met the penetrating gaze.

The jeweler looked down at his hands, his face flushing as he realized her meaning. “It looks like you got another chance though,” he offered quietly, looking over her shoulder at Regina as she appeared in the doorway by the stairs.

Leaning forward, he motioned Alex to him and spoke softly in her ear. “You don't know what life holds ahead of you, my friend. Keep it special. Bring her flowers just one at a time, it means more that way.”

His words were totally unexpected and left Alex speechless. She nodded her head, silently processing the meaning before a warm smile crept across her face. “I will,” came the very quiet and wistful response when she was able to get her mouth to start working again.

The blonde glanced up between the two of them as she approached. “Everything all right?”

“Fine,” Alex swallowed and turned away, feeling the unexpected sting of tears in her eyes. Damn, why did I have to remember that, now? She walked over to the window and peered out at the street, waiting for the lump in her throat to ease.

****** “Happy birthday, baby.” She placed a chaste kiss over the mound of damp curls and crawled back up to lie on top of Lana.

A fine sheen of perspiration covered their bodies, as they lay tangled amid the satin sheets on Lana's bed. “Let…let me catch my breath,” the woman panted, her body still quivering from Alex's touch.

The brunette smiled and reached into the drawer of the nightstand where she hid the black box earlier that evening. “Close your eyes.”

“What?” Lana struggled to sit up but got pressed back to the mattress by Alex's hand.

“Down. Close your eyes.”

She complied with a small pout.

Alex shook her head, smiling down at her lover. Lana had no idea what she'd gotten her and after many hours of looking for just the right one, Alex finally chose a gold band inlaid with a row of diamonds.

Carefully, she opened the box and pulled out the ring. *****

Alex jammed her hands into her coat pockets and closed her eyes, blocking the rest of the bittersweet memory out of her mind.

The blonde's brow creased in confusion for a moment as she watched the dark-haired woman's movements from across the room. “Um, did you get a hold of the person who's selling the locket?”

The man cleared his throat and looked around the counter he was standing behind. His calloused and worn fingers trembled as he pulled a pen from his pocket and wrote a figure down on a receipt pad. “Here.” He tore the paper from the bound stack and folded it in half before he handed it to Regina.

Hesitantly, the Regina took the paper from him and glanced briefly at Alex's somber profile before she unfolded it. She watched the hunched shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath. When the taller woman gazed in her direction she motioned her over.

She felt the warmth of Alex's presence as the doctor walked up and stood close behind her.

“I think you should get it, Regina,” Alex told her quietly as she read the price written on the paper. The taller woman met the jeweler's gaze and they shared a secret knowing smile.

Afterwards, Alex busied herself browsing through the brightly lit glass displays while Regina paid for her purchase.

“Are you ok?” Regina walked over to the doctor, carrying the neatly wrapped box in a small bag the jeweler gave her.

One dark eyebrow arched and Alex regarded her with a well-practiced mask of neutrality on her face. “Yeah, I'm fine. Do you want to grab something to eat?”

“Sure,” Regina agreed amiably as they walked out of the store. That will give me some time to figure out what happened to you in there.

******

They ended up in a small, cozy, dimly lit Italian restaurant on the edge of town. Inside, a large painted mural of ancient Rome decorated an entire wall. A young man with jet- black hair and bronze-colored skin escorted them back to one of the empty booths in the back of the restaurant.

Regina slipped into the vinyl-covered seat across from the brunette and waited for the young man to hand them the menus before she spoke. “You seemed distracted before at the jewelry store.” She moved a candle off to the side of the table and leaned forward on her arms.

Alex looked up as the waiter returned with two glasses of water and smiled down at the two of them. “Distracted?”

She sipped the clear liquid, stalling for some time to compose some kind of an answer that would satisfy the blonde's curiosity. Her hands automatically reached for the menus, but Regina slid them away out of her reach.

The younger woman leaned closer and spoke in a low voice. “Alex, I hope by now you'd realize that you can trust me.”

The doctor shifted in her seat uncomfortably and ran her fingers over the outside of her glass. “What are you talking about?”

The waiter re-appeared at their table a moment later. “Are you ladies ready to order?”

Regina sat back and looked expectantly at Alex, then, shook her head. You know what I'm talking about. “I think we need a few more minutes.”

“No problem. I'll come back,” he replied and walked away from their table.

“Here.” The blonde handed the menu over to the brooding woman and opened her own.

Alex glanced briefly at the menu and then closed it, unable to concentrate on what's she was trying to read.

“Don't tell me you already know what you're going to get.” Regina tilted her head and raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Penne and vodka sauce,” Alex stated and downed the rest of her water in two nervous gulps.

For the second time tonight, she found herself in unfamiliar territory. She made it a practice to never divulge personal information to a stranger and had done just that not less than an hour ago…Christ, what is wrong with me?

The blonde nodded absently and went back to studying her menu in silence.

“The lobster ravioli is really good here,” Alex offered quietly. She folded her hands together, set her elbows on the table, and rested her chin on her knuckles. Trust? Of course I trust her, she knows more about me than anyone else in my life.

“I guess you've eaten here before.”

Alex nodded and then sat back against the booth. “A few times.” I can't believe I ended up bringing her here, of all places. Stop it! Her rational mind clamored. It's close to where we were and the service is good.

The waiter walked back over and stood at the end of their table. “Ladies?”

“Ready?” She looked over at Regina and got a nod. “I'll have the penne and vodka sauce and…”

“I'll have the lobster ravioli,” Regina added, handing the menus over to the waiter.

“Both excellent choices. You'll get a salad with that. What kind of dressing would you like?”

“Raspberry vinaigrette,” Alex stated.

“Mm, make that two,” Regina echoed, then, sat back against the booth and ran her fingers along the edge of the napkin nervously.

Alex watched one of the waitresses walk by carrying a tray, heavily laden with food, over one of her shoulders, before she drew her attention back to the woman sitting across from her.

She could tell by the far away expression on Regina's face that she was lost in deep thought about something. I can see the wheels turning inside you're thinking so hard. You're always analyzing and talking things through. It's just not that easy for me. Long, tapered fingers twirled the glass around in the puddle that was left from the condensation gathered around its bottom. “Why don't you think I trust you?”

Green eyes blinked and refocused on her. “I didn't say that I don't trust you me, just that I hope you know you can.”

“Of course I trust you.”

“Then why is it so hard for you to tell me what's bothering you?” Regina laid her hand down on top of the napkin and looked across the table at her companion.

Alex sighed and looked away. “I grew up not talking about things that happened. It was just better that way.”

The blonde reached over and placed her hand over Alex's. “Who was it better for Alex?”

Oh God, why does she do this so well? The doctor smiled thinly and looked down at the table. “I think you missed your calling, Dr. Kingston.”

“Really, what would that be?” Regina tilted her head to catch Alex's downcast eyes.

“Psychology.”

The resident laughed and shook her head. “Oh no, I don't want to sit around all day and listen to people's wounded psyche's. I have enough of my own baggage to carry around.”

“Well, you've done a pretty good job with this one.”

Regina continued to hold her gaze a smile playing at her lips. “That's only because I'm quite fond of yours.”

“Oh, you are?” The doctor raised a teasing eyebrow as the conversation took a lighter turn.

Green eyes twinkled back at her and Regina leaned closer to the taller woman. “Actually, your psyche is only one of a few things I'm rather fond of.”

Alex closed her eyes and swallowed hard. “I think we need to talk about something else.”

“You're blushing.”

“I am not,” Alex growled.

“Yes you are.” Regina smirked and looked up as the waiter appeared at their table with their dinners.

******

“I wish you'd let me pay for that,” Regina told her as she slipped her jacket on and buttoned it up before they walked out of the restaurant into the cold night air.

“You can pay for the next dinner we have.” Alex pushed the door open and held it for Regina so she could walk through it. “Besides, it's the least I can do after the last couple of months.”

“Stop saying that. You don't owe me anything,” Regina replied, and threw her arms up in exasperation.

Alex stuck her hands in her pockets and walked beside her in silence for a few steps. They passed several other couples strolling along the sidewalk, all engaged in their own conversations oblivious to the world around them. “I'm not used to having anybody want to do things for me, without wanting something back in return.”

Regina stopped walking and just stared up at the dark-haired woman when she turned around. “Alex, I'm not them, whoever they are.”

With her hands still in her pockets, Alex closed the distance between them and leaned in close enough to inhale the light fragrance of her perfume. “Regina, I know you're not. It's just hard to get over a habit that I've spent half my lifetime cultivating into a fine art.”

Regina tilted her head up and stared into the depths of the anguished blue eyes as if searching for something. I know you've been hurt before and you're afraid to let me in but Alex, please, believe in us. “I know, but all I want is the chance to be in here,” she replied slowly.

“After everything you know, what makes you think that's such a good place to be.” Alex straightened up and glanced over Regina's shoulder.

She watched a white car round the corner and slowly roll down the street in their direction. Her lips pressed together in mute irritation as she made out the outline of a familiar set of lights on top of the car. Perfect and let me just guess whose slowing down to get a good look at us.

“It wasn't that long ago that you started to let me inside all those defenses.”

Alex met the steady gaze of her lover and tried to ignore the police car as it drove past them. “I know what's inside.”

“So do I. It's what made me fall in love with you in the first place.” The blonde moved closer and slid an arm under Alex's coat and around her slim waist.

The doctor draped an arm over the smaller woman's shoulder and pulled her close. “We have an audience you know.”

Regina sighed and shook her head. She saw the police car pull in to the space behind Alex's truck. “Derrick?”

“Probably,” Alex breathed out and squeezed her reassuringly.

“Do you know what I'd love to do to him right now?”

“What?”

“Shove a banana up his tailpipe,” Regina stated matter-of-factly.

Alex snickered as they walked toward her Jeep. “There's a grocery store across the street. You could go get a bunch, in fact, hey, they're on sale.”

The driver's side door opened and Derrick stepped out. He slid his nightstick into the loop that held it in his belt and curled his lip when he looked at Alex. Leisurely, he strode around the doctor's vehicle inspecting it and then walked up to stand in front of her. “It grieves me so much to tell you this Alex, but you didn't put money in the parking meter.”

The doctor glanced over at the meter and shrugged. “So is this what they have you doing now, handing out parking tickets?” She felt Regina stiffen against her and she rubbed her fingers over her shoulder instinctively.

Derrick sneered. “Let me see your license and insurance card.”

“You don't need that for a parking ticket,” Regina snapped.

“Actually, this vehicle is overdue for inspection.”

“Bastard,” Regina muttered under her breath. She stepped away as Alex dug in her wallet and pulled out her license. Fine Derrick. Be that way. “I'll be right back, Alex.”

The doctor jerked her head up. “Where are you going?”

“I just remembered I need something from the store. Besides I don't want to be around him.”

Alex opened her mouth to protest and then thought better of it. She took her time rummaging through the small glove compartment as she looked for her insurance card. With an air of complete boredom, she handed over the documents to Derrick. Warily, she kept an eye out for Regina. She knew her lover's dander was up and she wasn't sure what the blonde was planning to do.

By the time, Derrick called her information in and finally got around to writing out her tickets, she spotted Regina walking back across the street with a brown bag in her arms. Oh, Derrick whatever it is she has planned, you are in trouble.

“Can I have your keys?” Regina held out her hand and took them from Alex with a sweet smile before she disappeared around to the other side of the truck. The alarm chirped as she disarmed the Jeep and then opened the door.

Derrick watched her and then looked back at Alex. He tore the tickets out of his book and waved them in front of her. “Here.”

Alex plucked them out of his hand and crumpled them into a ball up before she shoved them in her coat pocket. Come on Regina, whatever you're doing hurry up!

Derrick snorted at her insolent display. “You'll still have to pay them.”

“We'll see,” Alex replied.

“That druggie friend of yours has her trial date coming up. She might just get lucky and get off on probation.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Just what I said. It turns out the kid may have been drinking as well.”

“She's got other charges against her.”

He shrugged. “That's for the State of Massachusetts to figure out.”

Much to the doctor's relief, Regina walked back around the truck and handed Alex her keys. “Are you quite done Derrick?”

He folded his arms and stepped back away from the two women. “For now.”

Regina rolled her eyes and opened the passenger side door of the Jeep.

Alex walked around to the other side and hopped in behind the steering wheel. “Please tell me you didn't do what I think you did,” she hissed as her cohort pulled the door shut.

Regina looked out the window and watched as Derrick walked across the street and stopped to talk to a group of kids that were congregating outside one of the stores. “Don't worry I didn't shove a banana up his tail pipe.”

“Good.” Alex glanced over at the blonde as she started the engine and pulled out of the parking spot. “What's so funny?”

Regina giggled and hugged her arms around herself. “Just go, please.”

“Regina,” Alex lowered her voice and tried not to let herself get caught up in the infectious laughter. “What did you do?”

“I used a potato instead.”

“Regina!”

“Alex, don't be mad. Besides, he's lucky I didn't have more time. I could have put sugar in his gas tank or spread Super Glue under his door handles or…”

“Okay, okay.” Alex waved her hand. “I don't want to hear anymore. Since when do you have such a devious side to you?”

“Since he decided to hassle you tonight.”

At the next stoplight, Alex put the Jeep in park, leaned over the console, and surprised the blonde with a deep, soulful kiss. It would have last much longer if the driver behind them had not been so impatient and started honking his horn.

“What was that for?” Regina finally asked after coming out of her daze.

“Just because I'm lucky enough to have you in my life.” Alex smiled and winked at her before she drove through the intersection.



Chapter Thirteen

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